Abdullah bin Omar narrated that the messenger of Allah, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, said:
“I have been ordered to fight against people until they testify that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah and until they perform the prayers and pay the zakat, and if they do so they will have gained protection from me for their lives and property, unless [they do acts that are punishable] in accordance with Islam, and their reckoning will be with Allah the Almighty.”
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]
The majority of Scholars say that the “people” here refers to the Arab polytheists. The same interpretation can also be found in the Qur’an in Surah An-Nasr.
Another opinion say that the Prophet, sallallahu ‘alayhi wasallam, was referring to all people, excluding Ahlul Kitab, i.e. the people of the Book. It was said that this hadith was abrogated by the later rulings concerning jizziya (compensation).
A third opinion interprets the hadith as saying that people have to accept the domination or supremacy of Islam – that Islam is the dominant religion. This objective is to be achieved by whatever means, whether it is through fighting or through peaceful agreements.
Islam is the only true religion. It is the truth; it is the path of Allah. One of the divine Laws since the earth was created: evil has always been fighting against truth. The truth has to be protected and it needs power to protect it. This is the main philosophy of jihad in Islam: Jihad is to establish and maintain justice and truth.
Jihad is not confined to only fighting. It has many other unpracticed or weakly practiced forms: da’wah, disseminating knowledge and educating others, maximizing the good and minimizing the evil, reconciling clashes and conflicts between Muslims, striving for the betterment of community are all forms of jihad.
How do we deal with the concept of jihad in our contemporary life? There are oppressed Muslim communities where fighting is a choice. However, generally speaking, we can answer the question based on dealing with two kinds of challenges: internal and external ones.
Internal Challenges encountering Muslims
Today unfortunately, the Muslim ummah is not united. It is divided and split into different groups and sects whether religious or political. Conflicts are every where between Muslims. In this situation jihad means to re-establish the unity of the Muslim communities and of the ummah at large. It means also to remove or minimize clashes and disputes.
Another issue is the lack of understanding of Islam by the Muslims themselves. The majority of Muslims today do not understand the true meaning of Islam, even the basic concepts. Here, jihad takes the form of disseminating the true message of Islam to the Muslims and educating them so that they fully understand their deen.
Since the majority of the Muslims do not truly understand Islam, they do not practice their religion correctly or completely.This means the shahadah of the ummah (i.e. being witnesses of the truth) is not activated today. We should be establishing ourselves as a role model to other nations but we are not doing so. We should be practicing the great values, concepts and principles of Islam and following its rulings and guidelines. If we do so, this will portray the real image of Islam and make us the perfect model for other societies, communities and nations. Only then will the non-Muslims feel attracted to Islam and may accept the dominance of Islam in their society because they see that the dominance of Islam means justice, good values, well-being of human kind, etc.
This is a great jihad which we should undertake though it needs great effort and may take a very long time, i.e. decades, to establish. We should embark on this jihad step by step, with different efforts happening concurrently: efforts to educate the Muslims their great religion; efforts to make them practice it and be good role models to others; efforts to make Muslims a great nation, and to make them united.
Looking at the Muslim ummah or community today, the basic concept which will lead to unity is missing – the concept of Al-Wala’. Al-Wala’ contains 4 sub-concepts: love, care, help and protection. These basic concepts are missing from the Muslim ummah and therefore we need to revive these concepts in order to unite the ummah.
This is the situation of the Muslims today. How can we talk about the supremacy and the dominance of Islam if the Muslims are in such a weak situation where there are so many discrepancies, contradictions, obstacles, shortcomings, etc. These are areas where great efforts and a great jihad are needed.
But to do jihad in a forceful way, i.e. by fighting, does not work and may create even more problems. There are some groups of Muslims today who confine jihad to fighting as the main and only way to establish the previous mentioned goals and this is destroying the image of Islam and is not doing any favour to the Muslims. Those people interpret this hadith to mean fighting but this may not be applicable to the situation of the Muslims today where fighting may cause more and greater harm.
External challenges encountering Muslims
The Muslim community is encountering two kinds of challenges – the internal challenges (some of which were previously mentioned) and the external challenges which are being imposed on them by the opponents of Islam. Those opponents are coming up with different ways of ‘fighting’ and trying to rule the Muslim world. These external challenges include all aspects of globalisation, modernity, change of lifestyle, technology misuse, changing values, etc. The battle field of these challenges are the minds and attitudes of Muslims specially the young generation, where the focus is on influencing the attitudes of the Muslims through influencing their way of thinking and altering their perceptions.
The opponents of Islam are promoting evil and negative concepts through new ways and means. One of them is changing our perception about things, where wrong-doings and evil deeds are being perceived as acceptable or even preferable. The latest findings of researches and studies, like cognitive psychology, are used to influence the world, including the Muslims, to change their attitudes, values and even beliefs.
If we accept the situation as it is and not do anything about it, the negative consequences will be greater in the future. Today everything, including the future, is being preplanned and designed but the Muslims are not aware of this. We are not aware that we are the subjects of the schemes of others – that we are being used or victimised as target groups where the Muslim minds are being manipulated and brainwashed. Therefore we need to counter these external challenges. This is also a great jihad because these opponents of Islam are using such means and ways to threaten our values, beliefs and identities as Muslims. We need to be aware of the situation and think about what is being designed to influence us and we should use the same means to counter these negative influences.
The influencing method used by the opponents is similar to the insinuation of the Shaitan. This insinuation, as stated in the Qur’an, is done by the Shaitan to colour our perception. As Allah says, Shaitan will either promote evil by colouring our perception so that bad things are being perceived as good, or by influencing us and preventing us from doing good deeds. For example, if we want to give sadakah, Shaitan will insinuate to us that doing such a good deed will burden our finances and influence us into thinking about what better use we could have for the money if we did not give it away.
It is also mentioned in the Qur’an that Shaitan creates conflicts and disputes among the Muslims, also through colouring their perception. A word or term may have different meanings and different interpretations which in turn will lead to different understandings. For example, if a person uses a double-meaning word, Shaitan comes in and insinuates by causing the other party to misinterpret the meaning and this leads to conflicts and disputes. That’s why quarrels occur between husbands and wives, brothers, friends, community members, etc.
This same method of colouring or manipulating our perception is being used today by evil doers to promote evil through many different means such as the media and technology. Whether it is through pictures or spoken or written words, these methods are used to change and alter our perception, influencing our attitudes and values and the way we view the world.
This is one of the real areas of jihad today for Muslim educators and intellectuals.
Technology can be used in both a negative and/or positive way. We must master it and be in control of it, using it for our benefit and not to merely be passive users. When we use technology, e.g. the Internet, we must use it in a way where we are the ones who control it, and not as a manipulation tool of others. We should use it in our da’wah, as a form of counter manipulation. We use it to alter the perception of our Muslim community back to its original, positive form, whether it is our values, beliefs or attitudes.
We can also use the Qur’anic style of da’wah, using metaphors and analogies. This methodology is something which we are very weak at. Metaphorical Thinking and Analytical Thinking are powerful skills which we need to learn. These are actually Qur’anic styles. Even though these styles of thinking appear as products of the West, i.e. the products of Cognitive Psychology which was established about 50 years ago, they were actually established 1,500 years ago by Islam. But the Muslims themselves are not using these tools. Thus, we need to learn these methods and start using them. We need to use imageries and similes in our dialogue when we give da’wah as this makes it easier for people to understand the message.
Part of our jihad and obligations is to update and equip ourselves with the right tools. Willingness and enthusiasm is not enough. We need to be able to learn and utilise the right tools to counter what is being imposed on us by the evil doers.
We need to understand ourselves, to understand Islam, to educate others about Islam, to understand the contemporary challenges, to equip ourselves with the right tools so that we can face and counter the contemporary challenges in the right way. When we talk about the concept of jihad we shouldn’t just talk about the common understanding of jihad – we shouldn’t get emotional about it, forgetting about ourselves or the world we’re living in or the situation of our ummah or about the challenges we are facing. Thus it is not easy to truly understand the different aspects of the concept of jihad or how to implement these aspects in our world today.
When we discuss about the concept of jihad we have to resolve the conflicts that exist within ourselves – the conflicts between reality and the ideal situation. One of the biggest efforts we have to undertake is to determine how we can bridge the distance between these conflicts. We need to bridge the gap between the ideal situation and the real world.
To resolve these conflicts within us, we need psychological and social adjustments. We live in a society which is somehow corrupted but we still maintain our values and try to do something to improve the situation. Otherwise without these adjustments we may end up with either confrontation and aggressiveness or living a modern life and rejecting our values and beliefs.
Both extremes are not acceptable. What we need is assertiveness, a social and psychological adjustment. We need to determine how we can live in this modern world as a good Muslim, maintaining our identity and moral values. These are great challenges which we face today. We have to be practical in dealing with these challenges. When we talk about Islam we usually talk in the theoretical sense, e.g. what is taqwa (piety), ikhlas (sincerity), etc. We need to be able to implement these concepts in our everyday life activities and practices especially as we face all these different challenges. Thus we need to address Islamic concepts with reality, within the context of the actual situation of the society today.
Dr. Jamal Ahmed Badi